In game one of the MISL Playoffs, the Comets showed the league and the world Wednesday night that they belonged in the postseason. Plagued by defensive lapses throughout the first half of the year, it was a dominating defensive performance that proved to be the difference in the game, as the Comets defeated the visiting Milwaukee Wave 11-5 at the Independence Events Center. The Comets now hold a one-game advantage in the series.
“I could not be more proud of my guys,” said Head Coach, Kim Roentved. “This was a very experienced team (Milwaukee) with four championships under their belt. The pressure is on them now, and that’s what we wanted.”
The Wave came out pressuring early on every possession, essentially controlling the first 10 minutes of the game by keeping the ball on the Comets’ half of the field, with the Comets appearing content to just clear the ball out to the Milwaukee side. Finally, on one of the first Comets’ breakaways of the game, the ball was sent into the Wave’s left corner, where the Comets’ Jamar Beasley and a Wave defender became trapped at the bend in the wall. The ball bounced around then squirted out towards the goal, with Beasley, Wave keeper Nick Vorberg and Byron Alvarez all fighting for it. Alvarez finally got enough of the ball to poke it in past Vorberg and give the Comets a 2-0 first quarter lead.
At the 10:29 mark of the second period, Alvarez had the ball again in the Wave’s left corner. This time the MISL’s leading scorer found a streaking Jamar Beasley with a pass just inside the top of the arc. Beasley sent a rocket off the boards that caught Vorberg out of position, and the ball deflected right to the Comets Vahid Assadpour who quickly deposited into the back of the net to give the Comets a 4-0 lead. Less than two minutes later, the Comets extended their lead on a give-and-go that started with Lucas Rodriguez, who passed through the box to Assadpour who one-touched it to Carlos Olivas, who put the ball past Vorberg. The half ended with the Comets leading the Wave 6-0, marking the first time all year that the Comets had shut an opponent out for an entire half.
Although the Comets failed to score in the third period, they did manage to do something that no other team had done all season in the MISL, which is hold the Wave scoreless for three full quarters. The Baltimore Blast had shut the Wave out in a half twice this year, but no team had held the league’s second place team scoreless for three periods. The Comets did so behind a stingy defense and more amazing stops in goal by Waltman in goal, as the scored remained 6-0 Comets at the end of the period.
Halfway into the final period, the Comets added to their lead on a restart goal in which Tiguinho launched a shot that was deflected into the goal by a Wave defender to give the Comets a commanding 8-0 lead with nine minutes to play. The Wave finally got on the board at the 8:26 mark on a three-point goal by Wave defender Jonatan Santos, a shot that was still rising as it entered the back of the net, to pull the Wave to within five points. A minute-and-a-half later, the Comets got caught with all five field players on the Milwaukee end. The MISL’s second-leading scorer, Marco Terminisi, took the ball all the way down the left side and rifled a shot past a diving Waltman to make things interesting and give Milwaukee new life.
Having cut the Comets’ lead to just three points, the Wave pulled Vorberg and went with a 6th attacker for the remaining five minutes. With shot after Wave shot either deflected by a Comets defender or by Waltman in goal, the Comets defense held strong again. Finally, with 14 seconds left in the game, Vahid Assadpour put the exclamation mark on the game with his second goal of the game - a three-pointer lobbed from three-quarters field. Final score: Comets 11, Wave 5.
Asked about his team’s impressive defensive performance, Roentved, a former MISL defensive specialist himself, said that his team finally gets it. “It’s clicking right now, and the guys understand that good defensive pressure can result in scoring opportunities and breakaways on the offensive end,” he said.
The Comets now head to Milwaukee for game two of the series on Sunday, March 20th at 3:05 p.m. If the Comets win, they will move on to play Baltimore for the MISL Championship in Baltimore on March 25th. The Comets are no strangers to winning on Milwaukee’s home turf, having defeated the Wave by a score of 13-8 back on New Year’s Eve at U.S. Cellular Center, and handing the Wave their first loss of the season. If Milwaukee wins the game, a 15-minute mini-game will be held immediately following the conclusion of the match. If play is still tied, additional 15 minute “Golden Goal” periods are played until a winner is determined. The winner then moves on to play the Blast at 1st Mariner Arena for a single Championship Game on Friday, March 25th.
The Comets have now won five out of their last six games, including four in a row at the Independence Events Center.